18 August 2021

Streatham inquest jurors asked whether terror attack could have been prevented

18 August 2021

Jurors at the inquest into the death of Streatham terrorist Sudesh Amman have been asked whether his horrific attack could have been prevented, and if opportunities were missed by police and probation services.

The jury has retired to consider its conclusions on events leading up to the incident on February 2 2020, but has been directed to return a conclusion of “lawful killing” by the coroner Mr Justice Hilliard.

Twenty-year-old Amman was shot dead by armed undercover officers after he stole a knife from a shop and began randomly stabbing members of the public on Streatham High Road in south London, shortly before 2pm.

Amman stole a knife from a shop and ran down Streatham High Road, stabbing two members of the public, on February 2 2020 (Metropolitan Police/ PA) (PA Media)

He had been released from HMP Belmarsh into the community just over a week earlier on January 23 to serve the remainder of his 40-month sentence on licence.

Summing up the evidence and giving legal directions to the jury on Wednesday, Mr Hilliard said the only “safe conclusion” on the actions of the police was that Amman was lawfully killed.

“Sudesh Amman was trying to do dreadful things on February 2,” he told jurors.

“What is required is a cool, calm, careful and impartial assessment of the evidence in the inquest.

“What you mustn’t do is indulge in speculation or guesswork.”

The coroner said the evidence showed each of the officers who shot Amman “at every stage honestly believed that it was necessary to use force in defence of himself and others”.

Amman was shot by armed undercover police outside a Boots store on Streatham High Road (Metropolitan Police/PA) (PA Media)

He added that the amount of force used at each stage was “no more than reasonably necessary in the circumstances”.

“Therefore, the only safe conclusion is that Sudesh Amman was lawfully killed,” he said.

“On that basis, as a matter of law, as the coroner I direct you to return a short-form conclusion of lawful killing.”

The inquest, held at the Royal Courts of Justice, heard Amman was considered “one of the most dangerous individuals” investigated by police and MI5, and that he maintained an extremist mindset throughout his time in prison.

He was seen purchasing items – including four small bottles of Irn Bru, parcel tape and tin foil – in Poundland two days before he struck, leading to suspicions he was planning to make a hoax suicide belt.

These suspicions were confirmed after Amman was shot and he was found to be wearing one.

The belt was later dismissed as a “crude” fake, although police are trained to consider all such devices as viable until proven otherwise.

Mr Hilliard asked jurors to consider whether the probation service missed any opportunity missed that may have prevented the attack and Amman’s consequent death, by deciding not to recall him to prison after being notified of the “concerning” purchases.

Jurors were also asked whether police investigators and probation both missed opportunities to organise searches of Amman’s hostel room.

The inquest was previously told by a former probation service worker that such a search “quite possibly” could have been justified as “routine”.

The coroner also asked jurors to consider if an opportunity had been missed to stop and search Amman on the day of the attack, as he made his way to the Streatham High Road.

Amman bought items including four bottles of Irn-Bru and kitchen foil, which he later used to make a fake suicide vest, two days before the attack (Metropolitan Police/PA) (PA Media)

Amman was observed leaving his approved premises at 1.22pm and wandering “very slowly”, appearing “aimless”, to the high street, before beginning his attack at 1.57pm.

Mr Justice Hilliard reminded jurors of Amman’s background including concerns of aggressive behaviour from a young age and previous arrests for terror offences.

Amman was born on December 27 1999 in Coventry, and was the oldest of six boys of Sri Lankan descent.

Little is known about Amman’s path to radicalisation – although he was said to have been traumatised by witnessing the decapitation of human bodies during a family holiday to Sri Lanka aged 15.

He was convicted in 2018 of 13 counts of collecting material useful for terrorism and  disseminating terrorist publications.

He was released on January 23 2020 despite concerns from the police and MI5 that he retained his extremist mindset, reportedly saying he was “proud” of being the youngest terrorist offender in Belmarsh.

But just days before he struck he claimed to have changed his ways, telling a mentor he “now realised” that those who committed terrorist acts ended up “pushing people away” from Islam.

The inquest was previously told by a former probation service worker that a search of Amman’s hostel room “quite possibly” could have been justified as “routine” (Metropolitan Police/ PA) (PA Media)

The inquest heard Amman was shot at six times after lunging at officers at the end of his 62-second stabbing spree, with between two and four bullets hitting him.

Attention was drawn to the bravery of officers BX75 and BX87, who fired the fatal shots, then contained the situation despite knowing about the presence of a potential bomb, after discovering the hoax belt.

Amman was declared dead 90 minutes later at 3.24pm.

The jury, which was previously reduced from 11 to nine after two members were discharged due to medical issues, will consider its conclusions following two and a half weeks of evidence.

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